Thursday, April 28, 2005


I can't even image how much time, patience, and practice these took. See a whole gallery of melon art. Via World on a Plate.



Culinary Mythology: Searing Meat

This is a myth that I have known about ever since reading Harold McGee's excellent On Food and Cooking, some twenty years ago. It always amazes me how many different authors still ascribe to the idea of searing meat to keep juices in.
Harold McGee (1990) introduces and deals with this myth succinctly:
It's in the best of cookbooks and the worst of cookbooks, the simple and the sophisticated. "Sear the meat to seal in the juices," they say. This catchy phrase is probably the best-known explanation of a cooking method. It originated with an eminent scientist. And it's pure fiction.

A nineteenth century German chemist, Justus von Liebig, conceived the idea that high temperatures quickly coagulate proteins at the surface of a piece of meat, and that this coagulum forms a juice-trapping shell that keeps the interior moist. The cooking technique that Liebig accordingly recommended -- start the meat at a high temperature to seal it, then reduce the heat to cook it through -- ran counter to the traditional ways of roasting and boiling. Despite this, or perhaps exactly because it offered a modern "scientific" alternative to tradition, the technique caught on immediately in England and America and eventually in France. Unfortunately, Liebig never bothered to test his theory by experiment. When home economists did so in the 1930s, they found that seared beef roasts lose somewhat more moisture than roasts cooked throughout at a moderate temperature. But Liebig's brainchild continues to turn up in many recipes for roasting, frying, and grilling. It refuses to die.

McGee also explores the question of why it refuses to die; and explains how easily, by simple visual observation, even the most stubborn adherent may be convinced that the myth is indeed a myth.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Didja Want Fries With That?

A couple of sources have the low-down on high profile chefs who are fronting for products. Via World on a Plate, we have the Wall Street Journal story by Kelly Crow.
At the Blue Ginger restaurant in Wellesley, Mass., one typical East-West fusion offering is "Miso Risotto with Shrimp Mousse and Roulade of Seared Monkfish." With its fancy name and $28 price tag, diners might expect the seafood is all fresh off the boat.

But the shrimp that gourmet chef Ming Tsai uses in that entree and others is frozen. And that's no coincidence: Mr. Tsai cut a deal with a big supplier of frozen shrimp, which pays more than $550,000 a year to sponsor both of Mr. Tsai's TV cooking shows. The company also sells him frozen shrimp at "below cost." Under the deal, the underwriter asks that Mr. Tsai features shrimp on two or three episodes.

"For me, frozen is a tastier shrimp," says Mr. Tsai, who on occasion buys shrimp fresh from other vendors. "Fresh is not as fresh as frozen, I think."

While that may be true wouldn't we all feel better if Mr. Tsai was upfront about it? Disclosures abound in the article.

This brings us to Too Many Chefs who focus on Rick Bayless' Burger King commercial (a scandal in the foodie community) and consider the question of celeb chefs fronting for products is a problem. Guess what their answer is.
Bayless stated his goal was to "help Burger King customers “take steps toward honest, seasonal, natural flavors [by] starting with them where they are". Oh, and get paid. That, too.

He got paid, but the WSJ reports that Bayless was so pressured by the foodie community and media to renounce the Burger King spot that he gave the $300,000 he earned for the commercial to charity.

Nutrition Basics - Protein/Amino Acids


The basic building blocks of protein are known as amino acids. The multitude of proteins found in a human cell are composed of about twenty amino acids, most of which are produced by the body. The eight essential amino acids that cannot be produced in the body must be supplied by the diet. All protein-rich foods contain some or all of these eight. Certain other amino acids are considered to be conditionally essential -- normally the body can produce these from the eight essential ones, but when intake of the latter is insufficient, a dietary source of conditionally essential amino acids becomes important.

Foods are categorized as containing either complete protein or incomplete protein. Those providing complete protein contain all eight essential amino acids. Meats, poultry, fish, and other animal products are good sources of complete protein, but they are not necessarily the healthiest sources, as many of these foods also contain high amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol.

Vegetables, grains, legumes, and nuts do not contain all the essential amino acids. However, each of these food groups contains different types and ratios of the essential amino acids, and when combined, they provide complete proteins. This process of combining complementary proteins has been referred to as mutual supplementation. The traditional dishes from cuisines that rely on plant foods as their major source of protein are excellent examples of this practice: lentils and rice, pasta and beans, tortillas and beans, tofu and rice, or hummus and pita bread.

Recent studies have shown that the body does not require that all eight essential amino acids be consumed in the same meal. A diet balanced over the course ofthe day with various complementary protein sources normally supplies all the amino acids required by a healthy individual.
The Professional Chef, 7th Edition by The Culinary Institute of America

Vanilla Brownies

I no longer remember where I got this recipe but it is sooooo good!

Step 1:
12 ounces vanilla milk chips (white chocolate chips)
1/2 cup butter
Heat until just melted (may curdle). Cool.

Step 2:
1-1/4 cups flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup chopped nuts
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 eggs
Stir into chocolate-butter mixture. Spread in greased/floured 13x9” pan. Bake 30-35 minutes at 350°. Cool and top with Vanilla Glaze. 32 quantity.

Vanilla Glaze
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
Mix until smooth.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Chicken Sauté with Vinegar

There I was with half an hour to dinner and a whole chicken ... hmmm, so I cut up the chicken and while trying to think of something interesting to do with it, remembered The Supper Book which I had just finished reading ... and handily was on the counter right behind me. The Chicken Sauté with Vinegar was really easy and pleased everyone, including Hannah (now that's a real home run!). And I simmered a saucepan of water with the wings and back ... voila chicken broth for the freezer!

You can use different kinds of vinegar making this so see which acidity pleases you best. We had this with egg noodles, salad, and lima beans.

One 2-1/2 pound frying chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces
Salt and pepper to taste (I didn't use any, the vinegar was seasoning enough)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick butter)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/4 cup water
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon crumbled dried tarragon (I didn't have any)
1 tablespoon minced parsley (I didn't have any)

Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a large skillet and put the chicken pieces in, skin side down. Brown on one side, turn over, and brown on the other. This takes about 8 minutes.

Pour in half of the wine vinegar and all of the water, and cover. Turn the heat to low and cook abut 10-15 minutes more. Check for doneness after 10 minutes -- don't overcook. The chicken is done when the juices run clear when the flesh is pierced with a sharp knife.

Transfer the chicken to a platter and cover to keep warm. Add the garlic to the skillet and cook over medium heat for 1 minute. Add the remaining 1/4 cup vinegar and boil quickly to reduce slightly, about 1 minute.

Add the tomato paste, and the remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Cook a few seconds, pour the sauce over the chicken, and sprinkle with the tarragon and parsley. Serve right away.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Nutrition Basics - Protein


Like fats and carbohydrates, protein is an essential dietary component, providing calories that can be used by the body as a source of energy. It is also essential for the growth and maintenance of body tissues; for the productionof hormones, enzymes, and antibodies; and for the regulation of bodily fluids. Protein should account for about 12 to 15 percent of calories; in a 2,000-calorie diet, that translates to approximately 240-300 calories (60 to 74 grams). Children, pregnant women, and nursing mothers will require more protein to support growth. Illness, infections, attacks on the immune system, and malnutritiion can also affect how much protein the body needs and how well it can use the protein it receives.

The average American eats 100 to 120 grams of protein daily, nearly twice the recommended level. Too much protein can be as detrimental to the body as toolittle because excess protein is linked to osteoporosis, dehydration, and gout. An excess of protein can also damage the liver and kidneys.
The Professional Chef, 7th Edition by The Culinary Institute of America

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Weekend Joke(s)

What do you call a cow with no legs?
Ground beef.

What do you call a cow with two legs?
Lean beef.

Thought for Food

Cooking is at once child's play and adult joy. And, cooking done with care is an act of love.
Craig Claiborne

Carnival of Food ...

... is up at Countertop Chronicles.

Friday, April 15, 2005

The Parisian Kitchen ...

... is not exactly what you may imagine.
When you move into an unfurnished apartment in Paris you can expect to find power and water hook-ups, walls, a floor, and a ceiling. That's it. No cabinets, countertops, certainly no appliances, and maybe not even a sink - just a bare room. Gas is highly uncommom - and considered very dangerous by the French - understandably given the ancient nature of most of the buildings.
Read the rest at Movable Feast, the adventures of an American chef who is living and working in Paris.

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Spicy Peanut Chicken

This chicken rocked our world a couple of nights ago at dinner (even though I didn't have any cilantro, which probably would have been even better). We had it with egg noodles and green beans. And, for those who take their lunch, the large amount of leftover sauce is fabulous over leftover green beans. From The All New Good Housekeeping Cookbook. Next time I would probably chop the onion and remove the chicken from the pan while cooking it; but that is a small point of personal preference.

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 medium chicken leg quarters (2-1/4 pounds), skin and fat removed
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 can (28 ounces) plum tomatoes, drained (reserve juice), coarsely chopped
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1/4 cup packed fresh cilantro leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt (I used a full teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Combine cumin and cinnamon; rub on chicken.

In a nonstick 12" skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat until very hot. Add chicken and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes per side. Add onion and cook until golden, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in blender or in food processor with knife blade attached, puree reserved tomato juice, peanut butter, cilantro, garlic, salt, and crushed red pepper until smooth.

Pour peanut butter mixture and chopped tomatoes over chicken; heat to boiling. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until juices run clear when thickest part of chicken is pierced with tip of knife about 40 minutes. Makes 4 main-dish servings.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Blogging Around

  • Chocolate & Zucchini gives us a really delicious looking recipe for Chicken & Zucchini.

  • Too Many Chefs has a 3 G Broccoli Soup (the "3G" stands for green, garlic, and ginger). I have a real weakness for soup anyway and broccoli soup in particular.

And Then It Could Be the Taste

Many consumers are drawn to organic milk in part because of what it lacks: Organic cows must be free of any bovine growth hormones and most antibiotics. Also, their feed and the land used to grow that feed must be free of any synthetic herbicide, fungicide, pesticide or petroleum-based fertilizer for at least three years.

Other consumers buy organic to support small family farms, a large component of the organic dairy industry.
Dallas Morning News Business Section
(free registration required)

And then some of us simply like milk that tastes like milk. It's always nice when the business section looks at food as if it is a business plan for some company. Food and taste ... hmmm, can't measure that very well ... must be the "support the small farmer" crowd pulling demand.

Culinary Mythology: Chop Suey

I had heard this but never seen anything definitive until reading about it in this book.
Various legends have been current. They agree in supposing that a Chinese cook (usually in California), confronted by a demand from exigent diners for food at an hour when everything on the menu was "off," improvised a mixture from leftovers and said that the dish was called Chop Suey, meaning "odds and ends" in Chinese. The identity of the demanding diners varies (in a manner typical of mythology): drunken miners, a San Francisco political boss, railroad workers, a visiting Chinese dignitary, etc.

Anderson (1988) gives the true explanation. Chop suey is a local Toisanese dish. Toisan is a rural district south of Canton, the home for most of the early immigrants from Guangdong to California. The name is Cantonese tsap seui (Mandarin tsa sui), meaning "miscellaneous scraps."

Saturday, April 09, 2005

Weekend Joke

A man walks into the psychiatrist's office with a cucumber up his nose, a carrot in his left ear, and a banana in his right ear. He says, "What's the matter with me?"

The psychiatrist says, "You're not eating properly."

Thought for Food

I know dozens of Southerners who grew up hearing some version of the "He just up and died at the table" story. Given the typical Southern groaning board of three or four different kinds of meats, ten or twelve different kinds of vegetables, and mountains of hot bread dripping with butter, passing to one's reward while eating is to die in a perfect state of grace.
Florence King, Ladies and Gentlemen (quoted in A Gracious Plenty)

A Little Useless Information

Caffeine is on the International Olympic Committee list of prohibited substances. Athletes who test positive for more than 12 micrograms of caffeine per milliliter of urine may be banned from the Olympic Games. This level may be reached after drinking about 5 cups of coffee.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Daal (Indian Lentils)

Courtesy of Vavoom. This looks wonderful. Now I just have to run out and pick up some Daal. Thank heavens for the Central Market!

For 2 people:
Chop 1 small onion
Fry onion in oil (vegetable oil will do)

Brown the onions and add a mixture of garlic and ginger. 30% ginger and 70% garlic, chopped in a blender.

Add 1 spoonful of mixture to onions then add:
Guram Masala 1/2 tsp.
Ground Cumin 1/2 tsp.
Tumeric powder 1/2 tsp.
3-4 small chopped tomatoes
Cook this mixture for 5 minutes.

Add 1 cup of Daal. (get these at an indian food store)
Add equal volume of water to daal (adjust if too thin or thick)
Add salt to taste
Then cook till soft (5-7 minutes)

Add 1/2 tsp of lime juice.

Once cooked, heat some oil in a separate stainless steel pan (2-3 tsp.) add butter to the oil (2 cm x1 cm cube). Add 1/2 tsp of cumin seeds to this slurry. Using low heat, heat until cumin color changes slightly. Add this mixture to the daal and cover after adding.

Voila, Indian lentils!

Spicy Caesar Dressing

This is our "house" dressing. Every time I veer away to something else it is brought back by popular demand from all the salad eaters in our house ... and guests too, to be be honest. Nothing could be simpler and it makes a lot.

3 cloves garlic, pressed or minced very finely
2 teaspoons anchovy paste
2 tablespoons Dijon
5 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1-1/2 cups mayonnaise
1-1/2 tablespoons Worcestershire
1/2 cup grated Parmesan

Whisk together or blend until smooth.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

More Diner Lingo

From Jitterbuzz.

Adam and Eve on a log*: Two poached eggs with link sausage
Baled Hay: Shredded wheat
Cackleberries: Eggs
Deadeye: a Poached Egg
Eighty-Six (86): Stop taking orders for this item, we are out of it.
First Ladies: Ribs
Hot Top: Hot chocolate
Life Preservers: Doughnuts
Mike and Ike: Salt and pepper shakers
Nervous Pudding: Jello
One from the Alps: Swiss cheese sandwich
Pigs: bacon
Rabbit Food: Lettuce
Sinkers: Doughnuts
Throw it in the mud: Add chocolate syrup
Yellow Paint: Mustard

Nutrition Basics - Cholesterol

Olive oil

Cholesterol is not the same thing as cooking fats or fats found in the body, but is a fat-related compound. Cholesterol is a sterol, a subcategory of lipids (the scientific name for all substances commonly known as fat). There are two types of cholesterol: dietary and serum. Dietary cholesterol does not exist in any plant foods; it is found only in animal foods. Serum, or blood, cholesterol is found in the bloodstream and is essential to life.

The liver manufactures about 1,000 milligrams of serum cholesterol daily, which is used to provide a fatty protective jacket around nerve fibers. In the skin, a derivative of cholesterol is made into vitamin D with the aid of sunlight. Cholesterol also functions in the outer membranes of the cells and as a building block for certain hormones. It is not essential to consumer cholesterol, because humans are capable of producing it from other dietary components. Furthermore, foods high in cholesterol also tend to have higher amounts of fat. For these reasons, it is recommended that daily dietary cholesterol should not exceed 300 milligrams, regardless of how many calories are consumed.

Cholesterol is transported by two main types of proteins in the blood, high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and low-density lipoproteins (LDL). LDL takes cholesterol into the circulatory system, and HDL clears cholesterol out of the circulatory system. A high level of HDL is desirable because it usually indicates a reduced risk of heart disease. LDL is a sticky substance that tends to deposit cholesterol in areas of high blood flow, such as arterial walls, these deposits may build up and eventually block the arteries so that blood cannot flow easily, causing a condition called atherosclerosis. Such a condition can lead to aneurysms, coronary and cerebral thrombosis, embolism, heart attack, and stroke.

The consumption of saturated fat has been shown to raise the level of LDL in the blood more than the consumption of dietary cholesterol. It is for this reason that health experts recommend limiting saturated fat to less than 10 percent of daily caloric intake.
The Professional Chef, 7th Edition by The Culinary Institute of America

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Thought for Food

It's an old tale that the South is known as the land of the hot biscuit and the cold check. Yet a part of the placidity of the South comes from the sense of well-being that follows the heart-and-body-warming consumption of breads fresh from the oven. We serve cold baker's bread to our enemies, trusting that they will never impose on our hospitality again.
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Cross Creek Cookery (quoted in A Gracious Plenty)

Weekend Joke(s)

Why do seagulls fly over the sea?
Because if they flew over the bay, they'd be bagels.

How do you keep a bagel from getting away?
Put lox on it.

Why was the tomato red?
Because it saw the tomato dressing.

A Little Useless Information

The English word "soup" comes from the Middle Ages word "sop," which means a slice of bread over which roast drippings were poured. The first archaeological evidence of soup being consumed dates back to 6000 B.C., with the main ingredient being Hippopotamus bones.

Friday, April 01, 2005